Anne had her "good" summer and enjoyed it wholeheartedly. She
and Diana fairly lived outdoors, reveling in all the delights
that Lover's Lane and the Dryad's Bubble and Willowmere and
Victoria Island afforded. Marilla offered no objections to
Anne's gypsyings. The Spencervale doctor who had come the night
Minnie May had the croup met Anne at the house of a patient one
afternoon early in vacation, looked her over sharply, screwed up
his mouth, shook his head, and sent a message to Marilla Cuthbert
by another person. It was:
"Keep that redheaded girl of yours in the open air all summer and
don't let her read books until she gets more spring into her step."
This message frightened Marilla wholesomely. She read Anne's death
warrant by consumption in it unless it was scrupulously obeyed.
As a result, Anne had the golden summer of her life as far as
freedom and frolic went. She walked, rowed, berried, and dreamed
to her heart's content; and when September came she was bright-eyed
and alert, with a step that would have satisfied the Spencervale
doctor and a heart full of ambition and zest once more.
"I feel just like studying with might and main," she declared as
she brought her books down from the attic. "Oh, you good old
friends, I'm glad to see your honest faces once more--yes, even
you, geometry. I've had a perfectly beautiful summer, Marilla,
and now I'm rejoicing as a strong man to run a race, as Mr. Allan
said last Sunday. Doesn't Mr. Allan preach magnificent sermons?
Mrs. Lynde says he is improving every day and the first thing we
know some city church will gobble him up and then we'll be left
and have to turn to and break in another green preacher. But I
don't see the use of meeting trouble halfway, do you, Marilla? I
think it would be better just to enjoy Mr. Allan while we have him.
If I were a man I think I'd be a minister. They can have such
an influence for good, if their theology is sound; and it
must be thrilling to preach splendid sermons and stir your
hearers' hearts. Why can't women be ministers, Marilla? I asked
Mrs. Lynde that and she was shocked and said it would be a
scandalous thing. She said there might be female ministers in
the States and she believed there was, but thank goodness we hadn't
got to that stage in Canada yet and she hoped we never would.
But I don't see why. I think women would make splendid ministers.
When there is a social to be got up or a church tea or anything
else to raise money the women have to turn to and do the work.
I'm sure Mrs. Lynde can pray every bit as well as Superintendent
Bell and I've no doubt she could preach too with a little practice."
"Yes, I believe she could," said Marilla dryly. "She does plenty
of unofficial preaching as it is. Nobody has much of a chance to
go wrong in Avonlea with Rachel to oversee them."
"Marilla," said Anne in a burst of confidence, "I want to tell
you something and ask you what you think about it. It has
worried me terribly--on Sunday afternoons, that is, when I think
specially about such matters. I do really want to be good; and
when I'm with you or Mrs. Allan or Miss Stacy I want it more
than ever and I want to do just what would please you and what
you would approve of. But mostly when I'm with Mrs. Lynde I
feel desperately wicked and as if I wanted to go and do the very
thing she tells me I oughtn't to do. I feel irresistibly tempted
to do it. Now, what do you think is the reason I feel like that?
Do you think it's because I'm really bad and unregenerate?"
Marilla looked dubious for a moment. Then she laughed.
"If you are I guess I am too, Anne, for Rachel often has that
very effect on me. I sometimes think she'd have more of an
influence for good, as you say yourself, if she didn't keep
nagging people to do right. There should have been a special
commandment against nagging. But there, I shouldn't talk so.
Rachel is a good Christian woman and she means well. There isn't
a kinder soul in Avonlea and she never shirks her share of work."
"I'm very glad you feel the same," said Anne decidedly. "It's so
encouraging. I shan't worry so much over that after this. But I
dare say there'll be other things to worry me. They keep coming
up new all the time--things to perplex you, you know. You settle
one question and there's another right after. There are so many
things to be thought over and decided when you're beginning to
grow up. It keeps me busy all the time thinking them over and
deciding what is right. It's a serious thing to grow up, isn't
it, Marilla? But when I have such good friends as you and
Matthew and Mrs. Allan and Miss Stacy I ought to grow up
successfully, and I'm sure it will be my own fault if I don't.
I feel it's a great responsibility because I have only the one
chance. If I don't grow up right I can't go back and begin over
again. I've grown two inches this summer, Marilla. Mr. Gillis
measured me at Ruby's party. I'm so glad you made my new dresses
longer. That dark-green one is so pretty and it was sweet of you
to put on the flounce. Of course I know it wasn't really
necessary, but flounces are so stylish this fall and Josie Pye
has flounces on all her dresses. I know I'll be able to study
better because of mine. I shall have such a comfortable feeling
deep down in my mind about that flounce."
"It's worth something to have that," admitted Marilla.
Miss Stacy came back to Avonlea school and found all her pupils
eager for work once more. Especially did the Queen's class gird
up their loins for the fray, for at the end of the coming year,
dimly shadowing their pathway already, loomed up that fateful
thing known as "the Entrance," at the thought of which one and
all felt their hearts sink into their very shoes. Suppose they
did not pass! That thought was doomed to haunt Anne through the
waking hours of that winter, Sunday afternoons inclusive, to the
almost entire exclusion of moral and theological problems. When
Anne had bad dreams she found herself staring miserably at pass
lists of the Entrance exams, where Gilbert Blythe's name was
blazoned at the top and in which hers did not appear at all.
But it was a jolly, busy, happy swift-flying winter. Schoolwork
was as interesting, class rivalry as absorbing, as of yore. New
worlds of thought, feeling, and ambition, fresh, fascinating
fields of unexplored knowledge seemed to be opening out before
Anne's eager eyes.
"Hills peeped o'er hill and Alps on Alps arose."
Much of all this was due to Miss Stacy's tactful, careful,
broadminded guidance. She led her class to think and explore and
discover for themselves and encouraged straying from the old
beaten paths to a degree that quite shocked Mrs. Lynde and the
school trustees, who viewed all innovations on established
methods rather dubiously.
Apart from her studies Anne expanded socially, for Marilla,
mindful of the Spencervale doctor's dictum, no longer vetoed
occasional outings. The Debating Club flourished and gave
several concerts; there were one or two parties almost verging on
grown-up affairs; there were sleigh drives and skating frolics galore.
Betweentimes Anne grew, shooting up so rapidly that Marilla was
astonished one day, when they were standing side by side, to find
the girl was taller than herself.
"Why, Anne, how you've grown!" she said, almost unbelievingly. A
sigh followed on the words. Marilla felt a queer regret over
Anne's inches. The child she had learned to love had vanished
somehow and here was this tall, serious-eyed girl of fifteen,
with the thoughtful brows and the proudly poised little head, in
her place. Marilla loved the girl as much as she had loved the
child, but she was conscious of a queer sorrowful sense of loss.
And that night, when Anne had gone to prayer meeting with Diana,
Marilla sat alone in the wintry twilight and indulged in the
weakness of a cry. Matthew, coming in with a lantern, caught her
at it and gazed at her in such consternation that Marilla had to
laugh through her tears.
"I was thinking about Anne," she explained. "She's got to be
such a big girl--and she'll probably be away from us next winter.
I'll miss her terrible."
"She'll be able to come home often," comforted Matthew, to whom
Anne was as yet and always would be the little, eager girl he had
brought home from Bright River on that June evening four years before.
"The branch railroad will be built to Carmody by that time."
"It won't be the same thing as having her here all the time,"
sighed Marilla gloomily, determined to enjoy her luxury of grief
uncomforted. "But there--men can't understand these things!"
There were other changes in Anne no less real than the physical change.
For one thing, she became much quieter. Perhaps she thought all the
more and dreamed as much as ever, but she certainly talked less.
Marilla noticed and commented on this also.
"You don't chatter half as much as you used to, Anne, nor use
half as many big words. What has come over you?"
Anne colored and laughed a little, as she dropped her book and looked
dreamily out of the window, where big fat red buds were bursting out
on the creeper in response to the lure of the spring sunshine.
"I don't know--I don't want to talk as much," she said, denting her
chin thoughtfully with her forefinger. "It's nicer to think dear,
pretty thoughts and keep them in one's heart, like treasures.
I don't like to have them laughed at or wondered over.
And somehow I don't want to use big words any more.
It's almost a pity, isn't it, now that I'm really growing
big enough to say them if I did want to. It's fun to be
almost grown up in some ways, but it's not the kind of fun
I expected, Marilla. There's so much to learn and do and think
that there isn't time for big words. Besides, Miss Stacy says
the short ones are much stronger and better. She makes us write
all our essays as simply as possible. It was hard at first.
I was so used to crowding in all the fine big words I could
think of--and I thought of any number of them. But I've got
used to it now and I see it's so much better."
"What has become of your story club? I haven't heard you speak
of it for a long time."
"The story club isn't in existence any longer. We hadn't time
for it--and anyhow I think we had got tired of it. It was silly
to be writing about love and murder and elopements and mysteries.
Miss Stacy sometimes has us write a story for training in
composition, but she won't let us write anything but what might
happen in Avonlea in our own lives, and she criticizes it very
sharply and makes us criticize our own too. I never thought my
compositions had so many faults until I began to look for them
myself. I felt so ashamed I wanted to give up altogether, but
Miss Stacy said I could learn to write well if I only trained
myself to be my own severest critic. And so I am trying to."
"You've only two more months before the Entrance," said Marilla.
"Do you think you'll be able to get through?"
"I don't know. Sometimes I think I'll be all right--and then I
get horribly afraid. We've studied hard and Miss Stacy has
drilled us thoroughly, but we mayn't get through for all that.
We've each got a stumbling block. Mine is geometry of course,
and Jane's is Latin, and Ruby and Charlie's is algebra, and
Josie's is arithmetic. Moody Spurgeon says he feels it in his
bones that he is going to fail in English history. Miss Stacy is
going to give us examinations in June just as hard as we'll have at
the Entrance and mark us just as strictly, so we'll have some idea.
I wish it was all over, Marilla. It haunts me. Sometimes I wake up
in the night and wonder what I'll do if I don't pass."
"Why, go to school next year and try again," said Marilla unconcernedly.
"Oh, I don't believe I'd have the heart for it. It would be such
a disgrace to fail, especially if Gil--if the others passed. And
I get so nervous in an examination that I'm likely to make a mess
of it. I wish I had nerves like Jane Andrews. Nothing rattles her."
Anne sighed and, dragging her eyes from the witcheries of the
spring world, the beckoning day of breeze and blue, and the green
things upspringing in the garden, buried herself resolutely in
her book. There would be other springs, but if she did not
succeed in passing the Entrance, Anne felt convinced that she
would never recover sufficiently to enjoy them.
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